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Hiring Household Staff

For many newcomers to Jakarta, the thought of hiring household staff seems quite foreign - as it is a luxury reserved for the fortunate few in the Western world. In Jakarta, however, having household staff is a part of everyday life for middle class and upper class Indonesians and foreigners alike. Your staff will not only be an enormous help to you around your home, but will also serve as your first window into Indonesian culture, a sort of liaison between two worlds. At the same time, you will be providing much needed jobs and financial support to your staff.

The first thing to consider when hiring staff would be your own personal household needs. Do you have a large house? A small apartment? Do you have children? A large garden or pool? Listed below are the different types of domestic helpers, or pembantu, who will be available for hire:

Common Household Help positions

Driver/Sopir - the person who drives the family car - employed by the family or the company. Responsible daily driving and running errands, cleaning the car, getting gas, and arranging maintenance for the car. Read more about Hiring a Driver in Indonesia

Cook/Juru masak or koki - person who has the primary responsibility for preparing meals for the family, caring for the kitchen, and possibly food shopping. As the senior person in the household staff, is often seen as the housekeeper. May also do other household chores. Many also entrust this person with “petty cash” for the household.

Cleaner/Helper/Pembantu - person/s who have responsibility for cleaning the house, washing and ironing the clothes, assisting the cook, help with child care as needed. For homes that do not have full-time cooks, the pembantu could also be responsible for helping with the cooking.

Babysitter/Nanny/Pengasuh anak / Babysister / Suster - person whose sole job is the care of children. Most of the time, they do not assist in household chores, except where it is related to the care of the child. Read also Babysitters, Nannies and Child minders

Night Jaga/Penaga Malam - Job is to watch the front/outside areas of your home in the evening

Day Jaga/Gardener/Penjaga/Tukang Kebun - job is to watch the front/outside areas of your home in the day time - may also do yard work or care for the pool. Ensures security at the gate, intercepting inquiries and guests.

Satpam - uniformed trained guard - working either evening or day shift. Responsible only for security and no household chores.

Live-in - the staff person has a furnished room and sleeps and eats in your home

Live-out - the staff person's residence is outside your home and they travel to and from your home each day.

For a single person or a couple in a small apartment a part-time live-out maid, plus a driver, will probably be adequate, but for a family in a large house with a garden a team of 4 to 5 people is recommended to keep the household running smoothly. The division of duties is very flexible and some of the jobs mentioned above can be combined, such as maid/laundress or houseboy/gardener.

In order to maintain harmonious relationships amongst the staff it can be a good idea to choose people from the same ethnic group, or to allow the most senior staff member, usually the cook, to give recommendations or advice on selecting the others.

When you have decided on what sort of helpers you need, the next question is where to find them. In Jakarta there are various ways to locate and set up interviews with potential staff for your home. Perhaps the very best way is through word-of-mouth from friends and colleagues as you will have personal references to go by. Another excellent source is community bulletin boards, where expatriates who are leaving the country often post notices in order to place their staff. Often you will have the chance to speak with the former employer. These bulletin boards are found in many supermarkets, clubs and organizations frequented by the expatriate community. However, to ensure authenticity of information, it is recommended to choose staff from boards that are not accessible to the general public and are located inside the buildings of the clubs and organizations.

Servants Registries & Online Search Options

The Expat Forum has a channel dedicated to household staff looking for work, and expat families can post ads to find them there as well. As with anything online, be sure and vet the person applying by thoroughly checking all their references.

BWA maintains a Staff List of available servants, and makes this available to BWA members at their center to view, or it is accessible by download from a private BWA members web page. ANZA has some folders of references for staff available at the front desk.

Another great resource is the Upper Crust's classifieds. Just ask to be added to their mailing list and you'll be able to read recommendations straight from previous employers who are trying to place their household help before they leave Jakarta.(uppercrustjakarta.com)

One of the most reliable ways to source staff is from other helpers' friends and family. It is possible that someone who is working for a friend of yours may know of someone who is looking for work. Indonesians normally would not recommend just anyone, as it is seen as a loss of face if that person does not work out.

Interviewing your Prospective Household Help

What to ask when interviewing a potential servant will depend a great deal on your own household needs and the duties involved, but perhaps the most important thing to go by is your own instinct or personal feelings about the person you are interviewing. Remember that this person will play a large role in your personal life in Jakarta, and will be spending a lot of time with both you and your family. Don't hire anyone that you do not feel comfortable with or trusting of no matter how glowing his or her references might be. A person's nature is often more important than his or her skill when you will be living in the same household. With luck, you may find someone with whom you and your family will establish a long and warm relationship for years to come.

Listed below are a few recommended questions you may wish to ask when interviewing:

Some additional information and common practices regarding staff include the following:

If you decide to terminate an employee, it is recommended not to give notice beforehand for security reasons. It is best to simply terminate the employee in a very calm manner, and ask that he or she prepare to depart the premises immediately. Once again, for security reasons, you should supervise this preparation in the company of another person. Avoid accusations, emotions and angry words. If your employee has worked for one year or more, he or she should be provided with severance pay equal to one month's salary per year of service even if they are being terminated. This should be stipulated in your initial agreement. Make sure that he or she signs a statement in your record book affirming receipt of this payment. If your servant is resigning, you are not responsible for severance pay. However, you should still supervise the departure.

If you have several members of staff it is up to you to decide whether you prefer to have them take their days off on different days, or whether you would like them all to take the same day off so that you can have a "staff-free" day.

It certainly takes some adjustment in getting used to having staff around your house, but most expatriates will find that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Household Staff Wages

The amount that employees pay their staff may be allocated within a lump sum that the employee receives at the end of each month. Normally a salary payment is broken down into transportation, meals, lodging and salary. Typically this is done because mandatory severance pay is based on salary only and does not have to include other payments such as transportation and meal allowances.  You may or may not decide to specify a distinct breakdown of the lump sum that you pay out monthly but should you not do this, upon termination, your employee will expect a severance payment based on the entire amount. 

The official minimum wage (upah minimum) in Jakarta is Rp 5,000,000/month (January 2024). It is adjusted every year and the new rate usually comes into effect in January. Most Indonesian household do not pay their domestic staff this amount as they consider lodging and food part of their payment and therefore only pay their staff a salary amount which is much lower. Note that if the employment of household staff is recorded on the financial statement of a multinational company, the company is obliged by law to pay the individual at least minimal wage.

The International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization adopted the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers, which is also referred to as the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). This Convention has not yet been ratified by Indonesia, but it nonetheless gives employers guidance as to internationally accepted minimum standards.

The Domestic Workers Convention states that if a minimum wage exists, this should be applied to domestic workers. Payment of wages must be paid directly to the worker and at regular interval of no longer than a month. The Convention also states that there should be equal treatment between domestic workers and workers in general with respect to normal hours of work, overtime compensation, periods of daily and weekly rest and annual paid leave.

The minimum wage in Bali is Rp 2.813,672, starting January 2024. For other areas, just Google "upah minimum provinsi ____ tahun 2024" putting the name of the province instead of the blank

Additional Information

Minimum Wage Information - for office/factory workers in Jakarta

Government Regulations governing the employment of household help in Indonesia

For more information on Household Staff, read Privacy Issues in Indonesia and how they affect expatriates.

Our thanks to Colliers International for their generous contribution of information this article!

Overseas Placement of Indonesian Staff

For those foreign nationals that want to hire Indonesians to work in their homes abroad, please be advised that Indonesian government regulations forbid the direct hire of Indonesians to work abroad as domestic help. The Indonesian Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers www.bnp2tki.go.id - BNP2TKI is responsible for the placement of Indonesians abroad. Legal migrant worker will hold a KTKLN card, issued by the Indonesian government.

The reasons for this policy are various and all involve protecting the workers from exploitation. Read the ILO's information on the subject here.

If you want to hire an Indonesian worker, you should contact the Indonesian embassy in your country of residence and ask what the approved procedure is and what agency is licensed to place Indonesians in your country.

Last updated December 11, 2023.